Philosophy, International Congresses of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Philosophy, International Congresses of


The First International Congress of Philosophy, held in Paris in August 1900, was timed to coincide with the world’s fair; it was organized by a group of French idealist philosophers that included E. Boutroux (president of the congress), H. Bergson, L. Coutu-rat, and E. Le Roy. The congress was organized into four sections: logic and the history of science (with the positivist school predominating), general philosophy and metaphysics, ethics, and the history of philosophy. Among the papers presented at the congress were “Principles of Natural Science in Aristotle,” by P. Tannery (France), “Inductive Logic in the Epicurean School,” by G. Lyon (France), and “David Hume and Critical Philosophy,” by H. Delacroix (France). The congress was attended by scholars from Russia—namely, the logician N. A. Vasil’ev (vice-president of the congress), V. N. Ivanovskii, and B. N. Chicherin.

The second congress, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1904, had an additional section on the history of science. The third congress was held in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1908, with W. Windelband presiding; it was dominated by the neo-Kantian and partly by the neo-Hegelian school, as represented by B. Croce (Italy), and its discussions dealt with the problem of synthesizing absolute idealism and pragmatism, with papers by J. Royce (USA), F. C. S. Schiller (Great Britain), and G. Kuwaki (Japan). Attending the congress from Russia were A. V. Vasil’ev, N. A. Vasil’ev, and P. E. Leikfel’d. This congress organized itself into seven sections: history of philosophy, general philosophy, psychology, logic and theory of knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, and philosophy of religion. The same seven-section arrangement was used at the next five congresses—the fourth, held in Bologna, Italy, in 1911; the fifth, in Naples, Italy, in 1924; the sixth, in Cambridge, USA, in 1926; the seventh, in Oxford, Great Britain, in 1930; and the eighth, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1934.

The ninth congress, held in Paris in 1937, was an important event; it was called the Descartes Congress, in honor of the 300th anniversary of the publication of Descartes’ Discourse on Method and Geometry. A special section of the congress discussed the basic ideas of the Cartesian philosophy; various subsections were devoted to such subjects as the history and influence of Descartes’ ideas and the methodological and mathematical aspects of the Cartesian doctrine. A. Koyré (France) and H. De Vleeschau-wer (Netherlands), respectively, examined the relationship of Descartes’ ideas to Galileo’s philosophy and to the philosophy of the 18th-century French materialists. The congress also discussed Descartes’ influence on philosophy and science in England (A. R. Anderson), Germany (E. Bergmann), Hungary (J. Halasi-Nagy), Czechoslovakia (J. Tvrdy), and Japan (G. Kuwaki). Descartes’ ontology and epistemology were examined from the idealist point of view in the papers contributed by J. Beneš (Hungary), S. Brown and K. Löwith (Germany), and J. Maritain (France).

The section on logic and mathematical philosophy of the ninth congress dealt with the antinomies and paradoxes of logic and set theory, the logical-mathematical analysis of the infinite (papers by C. Perelman, J.-H. Tummers, and A. Fraenkel), and the formal structure of mathematical objects. Special sections were devoted to philosophical questions in physics and biology; the principles of determinism and indeterminism were discussed by L. de Broglie and P. Février (France), A. Testa (Italy), and A. C. Ew-ing (Great Britain). In the section devoted to philosophical problems in biology, discussion centered on the “organismic approach” to biological laws, as set forth by L. von Bertalanffy; another section—dominated by the neo-Thomists—analyzed the problems of reflection and transcendence, and still another section took up the question of “values—norms and reality.”

After the interruption caused by World War II, an international congress of philosophy, purporting to be the tenth, was convened in Rome in 1946; this congress, however, not being sufficiently representative, is not usually included in the listing of international congresses of philosophy. (The same applies to the international congress on philosophy held in Barcelona in 1949.) Thus the Tenth International Congress of Philosophy was the one held in Amsterdam in 1948; this was the first such congress to be organized—as were the succeeding ones—by the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, under the aegis of UNESCO. The theme of the tenth congress was “Man, Mankind, and Humanity.” Seventeen sections—including new sections on the philosophy of law, philosophy of language, and philosophy of history—heard more than 400 papers; a theme that evoked major interest among congress participants was that of antifascism.

The 11th congress, held in Brussels in 1953, was marked by the predominance of two schools of thought: the phenomenological school, with papers by A. Beyer and L. Landgrebe (Federal Republic of Germany) and by A. Silva-Tarouka (Austria), and neo-positivism, as represented by A. Ayer and K. Popper (Great Britain). A resolution passed by the 11th congress called for succeeding congresses to be held every five years.

A historically significant congress of philosophy was the 12th, which met in Venice and Padua, Italy, in September 1958; its more than 1,300 delegates included, for the first time, a 28-member delegation from the USSR, as well as delegates from Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia. The Soviet delegation’s papers, which presented a Marxist interpretation of the theme of the congress—“Man and Nature”—evoked great interest among congress participants. The two other leading issues at the 12th congress were “Freedom and Value” and “Logic, Language, and Communication”; in the discussions devoted to these topics, the Soviet delegation consistently defended the Marxist-Leninist philosophy, opposing idealist interpretations of the achievements of modern science and rejecting all attempts to “refute” dialectical materialism. A number of philosophers from Italy, the USA, and France also argued from the materialist point of view. Of the delegates representing the bourgeois philosphy, the majority were neo-Thomists and logical positivists.

The 13th congress was held in Mexico City in 1963, with approximately 1,500 participants. This congress, too, was attended by delegations from the socialist countries, including an 18-member delegation from the USSR; altogether, these delegations contributed more than 70 papers and reports setting forth the Marxist approach to the principal themes of the congress (“The Problem of Man” and “Critics of Our Age”). Various countries’ representatives, including those from the USSR and Cuba (J. A. Portuondo), examined the ideological issues involved in the struggle for national liberation against imperialism and neocolonialism. The idea of a “world government,” presented by F. Larroyo (Mexico) and R. Sawada (Japan), was opposed by the delegates from the socialist and developing countries. Conflicting opinions were expressed by proponents of the materialist and idealist points of view in various sessions of the congress—namely, in the symposium dealing with the philosophy of E. Husserl and in the sessions devoted to general semantics, philosophical issues in natural science, and the relationship between the European and the Oriental philosophical tradition. A meeting arranged between the delegations of the USSR and the USA was an important contribution to mutual understanding between the philosophers of the two countries; chaired by J. Somerville (USA), the meeting was devoted to the theme of philosophy and the problems of peace on earth.

The 14th congress, held in Vienna in 1968, was attended by approximately 3,000 delegates, including 150 from the socialist countries. The 41 delegates from the Soviet Union took an active part in almost all the section meetings and plenary sessions, contributing a Marxist analysis of the principal themes of the congress (“The Mind, the World, and History,” “Freedom: Responsibility and Decision,” “Language: Semantics and Herme-neutics,” “Philosophy and Ideology,” and “Philosophy and Science”). The congress examined such basic problems of contemporary life as sociopolitical and ideological struggles, the struggle for national liberation, the social consequences of the scientific and technological revolution, the scientist’s responsibility and role, the crisis of bourgeois culture, and the nature and significance of humanism in our time. The congress provided a demonstration of the growing worldwide influence of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of K. Marx, a colloquium was held within the framework of the congress on the subject of Karl Marx and the philosophy of our time. A supplementary colloquium, organized by the Soviet and American Marxist delegates, was devoted to the nature of man and the problem of peace.

The 15th congress met in Varna, Bulgaria, in September 1973, with nearly 3,500 participants. In preparation for this congress, various conferences were held in the USSR, in Bulgaria, and in other socialist countries—notably, the all-Union theoretical conference held in March 1973 on the subject of man and scientific-technological progress. In addition, various papers and other preparatory materials were published before the congress, including a joint Soviet-Bulgarian work entitled Lenin’s Theory of Reflection and Contemporary Science (vols. 1–3, Sofia, 1973). One of the largest delegations at the 15th congress was the Soviet one, with 270 members; furthermore, the developing countries of Asia and Africa had a much larger contingent of philosophers at this congress than at previous ones. The participating Marxist philosophers provided in-depth examinations of the theme of the congress—“Man, Science, Technology”—in the light of dialectical materialism and Marxist methodology of science. In the course of congress discussions, sharply divergent views were expressed by proponents of the Marxist and of the bourgeois philosophy, respectively, on almost the entire range of current philosophical and social issues.

The 16th congress was held in Düsseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany, in August-September 1978, and was attended by more than 1,500 participants. The principal subject of the congress was “The Problems of Philosophy and World Outlook in Modern Science.” The reports dealt with the essence of world outlook and with the place and role of philosophic and scientific knowledge in the structure of world outlook. Three other fields of discussion included philosophical problems in natural science, specific problems pertaining to philosophy, and questions of social philosophy.

In addition to the general international congresses, various other international congresses have been held, and continue to be held, dealing with special fields and trends in philosophy: international congresses on logic, methodology, and the philosophy of science have been held since 1960 (the fifth such congress having met in 1975); international congresses on aesthetics, since 1913 (seventh meeting held in 1972); international Hegel congresses, since 1956 (11th meeting held in 1976); and international Leibniz congresses, since 1966 (second meeting held in 1972).


Kopnin, P. V. “XII Mezhdunarodnyi filosofskii kongress: Zametki uchastnika.” Filosofskie nauki, 1959, no. 1.
Iulina, N. S., Iu. P. Mikhalenko, and V. N. Sadovskii. Nekotorye problemy sovremennoi filosofii: Kriticheskii obzor materialov XII Mezhdunarodnogo filosofskogo kongressa, Venetsiia, 1958. Moscow, 1960.
Skirdo, M. P. Bor’ba idei na XV Vsemirnom filosofskom kongresse. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.